Okay, this is going to be a really fun interview, I’m telling you guys now. So many people have talked about how supportive and kind this writer is, I didn’t realize until recently that we’d connected many months ago. Do you want to know who the real advocates are in a community? Look for the people who offer to help others without fanfare, who just want to see people succeed. That’s this writer, and that’s why I wanted to interview her. She got a shout out in Jess Lauren’s #inklinginterview and now she’s getting her own! Please welcome: Alechia Dow!
Hi Alechia! I always like to start by asking where you are in your writing journey, and how did you get there? (I think the latter is important for so many people.)
Hey Ayana!! Thank you so much for having me on here and your kind words! It means so much to me. Thank you a million times!! So, where am I in my writing journey… It can get a little twisty sometimes because there isn’t really a straight path in publishing. Two steps forward, one step back and to the side, lol, and I’ve had an interesting time finding my way.
I’m represented by agent, Dr. Uwe Stender of TriadaUS Literary, and I have a book coming out next year (!!! WHAT?! In winter 2020 by Inkyard/HarperCollins called THE SOUND OF STARS!).
I’m currently revising that book and plan to pass it back to my editor very soon. At the same time, I’m working with my #PitchWars co-mentor, Mel Howard (check her out, such a cool author and so talented!), and our mentee, Tigest Girma (who is AMAZING) on her book and getting that ready for the agent showcase, eeeeee! I’m also awaiting my last round of agent edits with another book, AND drafting a new book, which is really, really fun. I’m all about keeping it moving, so I’m usually a bit busy, but very excited to see what I can do. And what will happen next.
I have SO. MUCH. JOY. CONGRATULATIONS on your book! I can't wait to read. Can you pitch your current project(s)? Do you use any aesthetics for inspiration?
No aesthetics, I’m sorry. I’ve made plenty of them BUT with my concerns of copyright law, lack of time, and the severe lack of POC pictures that are available for free use, I can’t share any :((
Note: These are all legitimate concerns.
Buuuuuuut I can talk about my projects!
I have about three books going on right now. THE SOUND OF STARS, which follows a teenage rebel librarian, a music-loving alien, and their unlikely friendship on a perilous road-trip to save humanity from extinction.
Secondly, we have MEZZANINE BOSTON, which follows a teenage assassin bent on saving her family, the president’s son who’s bent on saving his country, and their tumultuous partnership as they must decide how much they’re willing to sacrifice for liberty and justice for all.
Lastly, we have UNTITLED *I haven’t decided on a title yet, I flip flop on it, hehe*, which is a magical foodie romcom (I’m a former professional pastry chef and food writer!). No specifics because I’m not finished drafting it yet!
I just don't even know what to be most excited about. I always envy writers who can write more than one thing at once. I imagine that, when you do, it's important to know yourself and know your style. So what's yours?
STRAIGHTFORWARD. I sit down, I write. I have a clear idea of what I’m doing or what I’d like to accomplish, and I do it. Also, I’d probably say HYPED. I get excited about my projects, I visualize them like movies. As I see particular scenes unfold, it not only helps me write them, but also get really pumped about the overall story. Basically, I get excited, I visualize, down to as many details as I can, and then I write it. Sometimes I’ll outline, but not until I’m about 3-4 chapters in or halfway and I need the structure to finish up. Haha, does that make sense?
Um, it makes perfect sense because I do the same. (I'm not alone, hooray!) That sounds like a really awesome process, but do you have things in particular that you love or hate about it?
There’s this moment when you get an edit letter and you look at it and the blood drains from your face and you’re like, HOW AM I GOING TO DO THIS? You feel a bit hopeless and worried that you won’t know how to fix these issues and no one will want your book, your agent will drop you or your editor will be like, give me my money back. This is my least favorite part of the writing process. And thankfully it passes with time, but it’s really not fun to get through. I imagine it’s pretty common.
Just about every writer-friend I know faces this. It's very common. Obviously, when that dreaded letter comes back, or that moment of doubt sinks in, you look to the things that inspire you to push through--so where do you find inspiration for your stories?
MUSIC. My former Writing in the Margins Mentor, Tamara Mataya, once told me if you want to write well, you need to inhale art and exhale words. So for me, that’s music. I’m constantly listening to something. There are songs that I hear and they just vibe with me so well that a story pops into my mind like a series of scenes.
For my three projects, these songs were the jump off:
And for my foodie romcom, it was Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke” and “Thank You For Letting Me By Myself” from Sly & The Family Stone… but also most of the songs in The Greatest Showman (this books is really musical-esque, maybe more so than The Sound of Stars!!).
So, I want to be the first to coin the term EnDOWed Playlist, and I also want to be first to request one from you because your musical taste is everything! I love it. Moving into your writer life, I wonder: How do you manage life and other responsibilities alongside your writing?
This is going to be a long and frankly personal response, be prepared!
Girl. I'm ready.
It’s hard. I’m a stay at home mom because I live abroad right now and Bavaria doesn’t accept my Master’s Degree, which means I’m not contributing to our income (thus, we have to be mindful of our money), but also gives me time. So it’s a difficult balance, not feeling useful but also SUPER BUSY. My kid’s five and I’m doing the cleaning, shopping, cooking, laundry, taking her to ballet and music, walking the dog, making sure everything’s functioning and happy, teaching her English after school… it’s a long list and maybe doesn’t seem like much, but a lot of my day goes to that.
I reserve hours between 10-20 for writing during the week. I don’t always get it, but I try.
And then after she’s asleep at night, I may be able to squeeze in more time before bed. But it’s important that I take care of myself both mentally and physically as well---when I go too hard, I tend to spiral with anxiety, and if I feel like I’m not doing my best, I tend to get lost in the grayness of depression for a few days to weeks, sometimes months at a time-----all of which comes from chronic illness. That’s a really personal answer to your question, but I feel like we have to be honest with ourselves and own our challenges. You know?
As someone who's dealt with a very similar type of monster, I do. Thank you so much for being real with us, Alechia. And if you're reading this, this is your friendly reminder to (drink water) and remember to take good care of yourself! This can be really hard when you're facing writer's block or a tough critique, so Alechia--how do you do it?
I don’t go through writer’s block often because I never give myself completely to a project at one time. There’s an equation to it: give 70%, maybe even 60%, and then hold back the rest to sustain yourself through revisions and getting it ready. When I’m feeling particularly hopeless about something, I take a walk. I dance it out. I give myself time. I also ask my CPs for help. Tracy Badua, Rachel Somer, T.S. Bazelli, and Kendell Penington are my people. All incredibly talented and kind. Between them, I tend not to get too lost. It also works to set something aside for a bit, write something new, maybe something you have no plans of pursuing in publishing, and then come back to whatever you’re struggling with.
When I get tough critiques, I go through them slowly. Sometimes I’ll do it with my CPs so they can be like, okay, it’s not that bad! And then we come up with an action plan that doesn’t feel overwhelming. The thing about tough critiques is that beneath the words that are hard to read, there’s something constructive and helpful. If you get feedback that’s needlessly mean and there’s no subtext of being constructive, scrap it. ALWAYS take the feedback that resonates, that makes you think doing these changes are going to push your book in the right and better direction.
Solid advice, and I'm so grateful you've found such supportive CPs! Now, switching gears. Would you rather have the ability to time travel a century into the past or future, and why?
The past hasn’t been great to black folks, so I’d avoid that! I’d probably go into the future to see what’s up with technology, to see what society has done to overcome the issues we face today, and faced in the past. I find that really fascinating and would love to see a future where everyone is harmoniously living their best life.
(Spoiler, this is my actual answer too.) Now, going back to writing for a second, especially as a woman of color--What advice do you have for aspiring writers, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds?
DON’T STOP BECAUSE IT’S HARD.
It’s not going to be easy. You will have to work harder, write smarter, and push further than other folks, and it’s going to take a lot out of you… but it’s not impossible.
Find your people. Find CPs who understand your unique challenges and you can trust with a piece of your heart, which ultimately each work you let them read will have. Find friends who will listen to you rant and not tell another soul or drag you online, that you can trust with your anger and who make you feel good even when you lack self-confidence.
Celebrate every opportunity that comes your way. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, but be prepared to get it, and not in the ways you always want. Be thankful, stay hyped about your dreams, but as Claribel Ortega tweeted, don’t believe your own hype! And please don’t set out to be the next Angie Thomas, Sabaa Tahir, Leigh Bardugo, Tomi Adeyemi, Marie Lu… they exist and they fought for it. Be YOU. Fight for yourself and your name on the bottom of a book! You’ll have folks rooting for you, too :))
AGREED. I think one of the hardest things to do as an emerging writer is to not fall into the comparison game. We all have to learn to march to our own beats. Aaand, on that note: What’s your “anthem” Alecia, the song that would play if your life was a music video?
Ooooo, good question. Probably Jill Scott’s “Golden” or Barbara Streisand’s “Don’t Rain on My Parade” but some days it could be “Formation” or “Love on Top” by Beyoncé. Also the vibes of “All the Stars” by Kendrick Lamar and SZA, that song speaks to me. And Jennifer Hudson’s version of “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight” and Janelle Monae’s “Dance Apocalyptic”.... I love music. I could talk about this all day, really.
*Weeps* I love "Golden" AND "Golden Slumbers!" Okay, now bonus question! You have an all-expenses paid trip where you want with one of your characters--where do you go and who do you bring and why?
Oh man. Okay. TOSS UP. I’d take Jazz from my foodie romcom to Paris and we’d just walk around with our headphones in, floating, mesmerized, into bakeries and restaurants while exploring the city. We’re foodies, and quiet, joyful types. This would be rejuvenating for our souls.
If my mood’s revolutionary, I’d take Torres from MEZZANINE BOSTON to the White House and shake some stuff up. Torres is powerful and decisive, traits I think I lack more often than not, but her heart’s in a good place. I’d love to see her change the world. She’s who I wish I could be some days. And then there’s Ellie and Morr1s from THE SOUND OF STARS. I’d go anywhere with them… but not on Earth. I’d love to see the universe, listen to the best music and find hope among the stars.
I just want to say thank you again for having me on here and your kindness! I love this community and wish the absolute best to the writers out there reading this. I’m rooting for you all.
(I'm not crying, you're crying). It's really been such a pleasure to interview you, Alechia. Thank you. You truly inspire me, and I am READY to pre-order THE SOUND OF STARS. Do you guys want know more about Alechia and her writing? Follow her on Twitter and visit her website!
Next up is Paulette Wiles this Friday, February 15th!